A fire crackles in the fire place.
Beamed ceilings soar upward.
The rich aroma of meat braising and grilling in the kitchen fills the air.
Every time I walk into The Restaurant at The Cheshire, it feels like I’ve found my magic portal from St. Louis to a deluxe hunting lodge in the English countryside. For me, The Restaurant itself is a destination. My blogger’s salary doesn’t allow me to travel as much as I’d like, so you can only imagine how excited I was to receive an invitation to step through the magic portal and taste my way through Executive Chef Rex Hale’s new fall menu!
For this wonderful escape, Carlos* was my tour guide. He walked me through 15 dishes that he organized in groups and then expertly paired with the perfect wines. And yes, that is correct; there were 15 dishes, and I had to be rolled out Violet Beauregarde**-style when it was all over.
To get the gastronomic party started, Carlos brought out the bubbles. The Veuve duVernay was a wonderful way to tickle my senses and get me ready for what was to come.
The first dishes to arrive were the Ahi Tuna, thin and raw; Shrimp and Butternut Squash Chowder; Arugula and Local Green Salad; and Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs. This menu selection alone is a beautiful dinner choice. From the sweet and spicy sushi-grade tuna to the tender, rich short ribs, each bite was better than the first. Chef Hale makes the arugula and local green salad (which is dressed with walnuts, local apples, and balsamic vinaigrette) outstanding with the addition of Baetje Farms*** goat cheese. Baetje Farms is one of my favorite local purveyors, and their cheeses alone take a dish from simple to elegant in a heartbeat.
Carlos poured a beautiful De Ponte Cellars Melon de Bourgogne that brought the food alive.
Now, who doesn’t like an oyster? How about one that is described as a Pan Fried Naked Cowboy Oyster? Oh, yes! The oysters include a bacon salad and is secured to the shell – for presentation value — with a dollop of butternut squash. I think I love naked cowboys. (awkward giggle)
The butternut squash made another appearance during this flight of delightful dishes in the Autumn Squash Soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and sorghum crème fraiche. Thick and hearty, every spoonful tastes like autumn should: a little bit sweet, a little bit savory, and whole lot comforting.
A little something that isn’t quite so heavy are the Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels. They are coaxed open in a broth of cider, chorizo, half-dried tomatoes, and fennel are delicate and tender. The broth is divine, and I highly recommend dunking a little bread to for the full-flavor effect.
The Skuna Bay Salmon also delivers hearty fall flavors while keeping it light. Big, pink cuts of salmon are grilled simply with lemon and complemented with beets, ginger, and a warm black kale salad. This dish, in my opinion, is a true original as the technique and flavors transform this dish from the usual salmon that I’ve found at virtually every restaurant to a dish that stands up against the robust, meaty dishes often associated with autumn.
And what loveliness did Carlos pour this time? It was a Talbott Logan Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir.
At this point, the main courses simply came pouring out of Executive Chef Hale’s kitchen. I have to say here, I am a main-course girl and I have the appetite of a man. These three dishes sent me spiraling into decadent, gluttonous glory.
The braised pork shank is the size of something from a brontosaurus. Think Flintstones-style haute cuisine, served with caramelized vegetables on top of cheesy grits. Carlos brought a knife, a BIG knife, but I didn’t need it. The meat falls off the bone and right into the grits. Good Lord, go ahead and beat your chest and eat. This is what the fall is all about.
Then there are the Maine Sea Scallops. They are huge (nearly silver-dollar sized is a fair estimation) with a crispy outside and the most buttery center. It’s everything you’ve ever heard a scallop should be. But wait … they are balanced on creamy pumpkin risotto (hello, autumn harvest!) that is pushed over the top with smoked bacon and shrimp. I went weak in the knees and perhaps even tried to negotiate with my hubs for the last bite. For the record, I lost.
But that’s OK … because I did skewer the last bite of the New York Strip. Meat, glorious meat, it’s what’s for dinner folks****. Grilled to medium rare perfection and served with wild mushroom and Brussels sprout with cabernet vinegar, this dish has flavor, texture, and my very favorite veggie in the whole world. If you’ve ever been nervous about Brussels sprouts, try them here. They will be your gateway to other Brussels sprout exploration.
Cue the fabulous Carlos and a gorgeous bottle of The Element Pinot Noir. This pinot noir was bigger and bolder than the previous, and goes to show how a wonderfully informed pro like Carlos can expand your appreciation for vertical variations.
To contrast – or perhaps to compare more evenly – Carlos brought out a bottle of Faust Cabernet Sauvignon. I wish I knew more about wine so that I could translate the details in a way that does justice to wine. I can’t, and I’d hate to get it wrong. I just ask that you trust me, though, when I tell you that it was delicious and it worked with the same three dishes as did the Pinot Noir, but in a different way. Carlos truly provided a learning experience!
The Faust Cabernet Sauvignon paved the way to a symphony of desserts.
Just when I believed … truly believed … that I couldn’t take one more bite, Carlos began bringing the desserts. Clearly, I was wrong. I tried them all. The Local Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream; the Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake with strawberries and hot fudge sauce; the Chilled Passion Fruit Parfait with bittersweet chocolate and marshmallows; and (my personal favorite) the Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich.
The final wine selection of the evening was De Bartoli Noble One. It provided a perfect finish to a perfect evening. Clink and cheers!
I’ve had the pleasure of dining at The Restaurant on several occasions, and it’s among my favorite restaurants to recommend. The ambiance is divine, the service is personal and professional, and the food and wine never fail to make me happy that I chose The Restaurant. Beyond the a la cart dinner menu, The Restaurant offers two tasting menus complete with wine flights.
This is not The Cheshire that you likely remember. It’s a destination that has been designed to bring family and friends and dates together. It’s warm, it’s wonderful, and it’s just west of the world’s largest Amoco sign. I encourage you to get hungry, make your reservation, and step through the magic portal of The Restaurant to Eat It, St. Louis!
The Restaurant at The Cheshire
7036 Clayton Avenue
St. Louis, MO
* Carlos. When you make your reservation, ask to sit with him. His humor, his knowledge, and his grace will make your evening memorable.
** Violet Beauregarde was the gum-chewing girl from Roald Dahl’s Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. Her crime was gluttony, and she swelled to be a giant blueberry. The Oompa Loompas had to roll her away after they sang their song about her as a cautionary tale. I kind of identify with Violet.
*** Baetje Farms, as I mentioned, is a local purveyor crafting gorgeous artisan cheeses. One of Chef Hale’s hallmarks is his use of ingredients sourced from local farmers and artisans. Other contributors to his magnificent menu are Rain Crow Ranch, Marcoot Farms, Ben Roberts Heritage Poultry, Ozark Forest Mushrooms, and American Pasture Pork.
**** I know that’s not original on my part, but those ad agencies get it right from time to time! Why reinvent the wheel?